As we approach the weekend, a time for relaxing, we note that there is a more pressing matter just around the corner. On Monday, April 20, 2015, beginning at 4:00 p.m. at the Emerald Coast Middle School the Walton County Board of County Commissioners will hold the continuation of the public hearing to approve or deny the development known as the Re-Design of Chateau 30A. You are likely more familiar with this development by it’s commercial name of Hampton Inn. The Commission has already heard testimony. The chair has said that they will hear the remaining public comment. The issues to be discussed at this meeting include compatibility; preservation; planning procedures concerning lot splits, platting, and development orders; and of course driveway cuts along 30A. These are only a few of the concerns being raised by residents, property owners, and visitors. You can attend this public hearing. You can have your say concerning this development. You have a right to be heard. Feel free to review information about this project by going to http://lovemy30a.com.
For the date, time, and location of the Walton County Commissioners meeting concerning the Hampton Inn proposal, please check out Walton County’s website here: http://tinyurl.com/l85wahp.
The project is called the Re-Design of Chateau 30A and is an application proposing to construct a Hampton Inn on 30A.
Please mark your calendars. This hearing is important. We appreciate your support.
The public hearing begins at 4:00 p.m. and is the county commission’s opportunity to hear the concerns of the community, the testimony of county planning staff, and the experts and witnesses for and against the proposal. The commission will vote to either approve, approve with conditions, or deny this project based upon the submission of competent evidence and testimony.
There is clear concern the community along County Road 30A has with respect to the re-design of Chateau 30A. Below are some of the issues the community, the Planning Commission, the Board of County Commissioners, and the Walton County planning department staff should consider.
This lot was part of a development plan approved in 2004. The environmental assessments for that project showed that almost the entire parcel was sand pine scrub, a community that requires 50% preservation. Because of errors by county staff, the development was approved without the appropriate preservation.
This development, as part of that larger development, should be required to meet the county’s preservation requirements. That would mean preserving more than two acres of this threatened vegetative community. The county should not allow developers to split lots in order to avoid mixed use requirements or preservation requirements. To do so undermines the county’s code.
Even as submitted, the plan does not meet the preservation requirements of the code. The Land Development Code does not allow preservation buy-out on County Road 30A. This provision is intended to promote the scenic nature of 30A by maintaining the native vegetation on 30A. At a minimum, this project should preserve 1.25 acres of native vegetation.
Even if the code does allow preservation buy-out, it is at the discretion of the county commission. The commissioners should refuse to allow the developer to buy out the preservation for this lot, both to preserve the vegetation along the scenic corridor and to redeem the errors made on the prior project that was allowed to develop without any preservation.
In addition, the Walton County Land Development Code encourages preservation in the Coastal Dune Lake drainage basins. This property is less than a quarter of a mile from Eastern Lake and drains toward the lake. This is a further reason to require the full amount of preservation on the site.
Mixed Use Development/Compatibility
Per the Walton County Comprehensive Plan, a Village Mixed Use Center “is intended to provide opportunities for small scale mixed use development designed to serve a series of neighborhoods.” “This category is designed to allow a mixture of uses . . . which will assist in creating sustainable villages with commercial uses within walking or bicycling distance for residents.” “The commercial uses shall be in scale and character with the village concept.” “The VMU areas are mixed use centers which encourage and promote transitioning development from lower intensity along the perimeters to higher intensity core areas to ensure compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods.”
Village Mixed Use requires a mix of uses. A hotel with 660 square feet of retail is not a mix of uses. The other parcel on the property holds storage units and thus is also a commercial development. A group of commercial developments is not a mixed use community.
This Village Mixed Use area is surrounded by single family homes. A hotel is not compatible with the surrounding development; it is much higher intensity. There are no transitioning uses – the uses go directly from single family residential to high intensity commercial. Per the Comprehensive Plan, “The scale and uses at the edge shall be compatible with abutting neighborhood uses.” That is clearly not the case here.
The only other commercial development in the area is small, low-impact business that serves the neighborhood. This development is not low impact, does not serve the neighborhood, and will not integrate into the overall scheme of development in the area. It does not fit in with the concept of a Village Mixed Use development.
30A does not have the capacity to absorb this much additional traffic. Regardless of any proportionate fair share payment, there are no improvements that can be made on 30A to mitigate the impacts of this development.